Tuesday, September 30, 2008
They have a dedicated wok station for GF food. The sauce is made with garlic, ginger, rice wine, chicken stock, Sichuan powder, salt, sugar, and wheat-free soy sauce. And they "flour" their chicken and thicken their marinades with corn starch.
Some of my personal favorite dishes include the Chang's Chicken Lettuce Wraps, Moo Goo Gai Pan, Chang's Spicy Chicken, and the Singapore Street Noodles. To see the rest of the gluten-free menu, visit their website here. And to see if there's a P.F. Chang's near you, use the website's locator feature here.
It turns out that the same folks that own P.F. Chang's also offer up Pei Wei Asian Diner, a more budget-friendly, casual dining experience (like Seattle's Best Coffee versus Starbucks, or Toyota versus Lexus). The food is still great, though. And while Pei Wei's gluten-free menu is very limited (compared to both the full standard menu and P.F. Chang's GF menu), it's a gluten-free menu none the less, and I've happily eaten there many times. I recommend the Pei Wei Spicy Chicken. To see if there's a Pei Wei near you, use their locator on the website.
Between P.F. Chang's and Pei Wei, you can be sure to find a gluten-free, safe and delicious Asian dining experience. I certainly have.
Monday, September 29, 2008
Firstly, they're gluten-free. In addition - get ready for a long list - they're also cassein free, dairy free, antibiotic free, filler free, certified organic by the USDA, certified humane by the Humane Farm Animal Care organization, naturally made with whole cuts of meat, and sourced from small, family farms. And, in a move I've personally never seen done by a company before, you can trace your food from its source to your plate. For example, start with a Google map that shows the precise location of all of Applegate's chicken farmers, and then follow that chicken as it makes its way to your plate, with thorough descriptions of how the chickens are treated, grown, processed, etc. It's an element of transparency seldom seen in these days of frequent corporate scandal, and one that I think breeds a more ethical and natural meat product. Check it out for yourself here.
Lastly, there's the issue of flavor. I'm happy to report that Applegate Farms delivers. I've long been a huge fan of the natural Black Forest Ham and Smoked Turkey cold cuts (deli meats). The company's hot dogs also regularly garner rave reviews and high rankings from all sorts of media outlets and food reviewers. As our local supermarket expands its list of stocked Applegate products (our grocery store is currently finishing up a renovation), I'll be expanding my purchasing practices to include some of Applegate's other meats as well.
As the company says on its website, "there are countless people who have a love/hate relationship with meat, and are thrilled to finally find meat products they can feel good about eating." That's very true, not only from the perspective of being worry-free that gluten might be used as a filler, but also from the perspective that things were done right, done humanely, and done healthfully.
Friday, September 26, 2008
A word on our pizza cooking technique: we use a preheated 375-degree oven with a pizza stone inside. I sprinkle the pizza stone with corn meal, and do the same on the wooden paddle, in order to prevent the dough from sticking. Usually, I work the dough on the counter using both my hands and a rolling pin, until the uncooked crust is about one eighth of an inch thick. Then I carefully transfer the crust onto my paddle. I par-bake the crust (bake it without any toppings) for about eight to ten minutes. Then pull it out of the oven, do all the toppings, and pop it back into the oven until it's done cooking. And voila! Delicious pizza.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Shabtai Gourmet is a division of Cinderella Sweets, a family-run company with Andrew's mom, Cindy, as the president, and Andrew's dad, Shabtai, as its head baker. Shabtai (the father) began experimenting with gluten-free foods, responding to a need in the Jewish community, particularly during Passover. But what they soon found was that their gluten-free foods were becoming popular with the non-Kosher, non-Jewish crowds as well. According to Andrew, one customer from New Hampshire would buy up to 15 cakes all at once during Passover, and then store them in a dedicated freezer for his wife (who has Celiacs) to eat throughout the year!
To make a long story short, Shabtai Gourmet now makes a line of 16 GF products, ranging from cakes to cookies. They're available year-round in stores throughout the Northeast and Midwest, including the Wegmans grocery store chain, and more recently, 10 Shop Rite stores, including the one in Monroe, NY, near Kiryas Joel. During Passover, you're likely to find them nationwide. Shabtai Gourmet is also very supportive of different Celiac groups, including the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, and the company regularly sends packages of free samples to different Celiac support groups around the country.
So, you must be wondering, what did Kelli and I think of the treats we tried? Shabtai Gourmet sent us four products out of their line of 16 to try: Rainbow Cookies, Brownie Bites, Ring Ting Cupcakes, and the Rasberry Roll. Before I launch into our assessment, a disclaimer - Kelli and I have high standards when it comes to store-bought, pre-made foods. As you know from some of our previous posts, we're big fans of making things at home from scratch, and we believe that doing so results in a treat that is fresher, tastier, and healthier. But we understand that there will be people for whom that approach doesn't hold the same appeal. In those cases, bakeries like Shabtai Gourmet can be the way to go, and here's what we thought of the treats we tried.
In a word, these were exceptional. They were moist, with rich flavor and perfect texture. Coming from an Italian family on Long Island, I used to eat Rainbow Cookies like these as a kid, bought from one of the many Italian bakeries that dot every community on the Island. Eating Shabtai's Rainbow Cookies took me right back to those days - they were delicious, and you couldn't tell they were gluten-free.
Alas, there's a bit of a black cloud hanging over these treats and some of the others from Shabtai Gourmet. They're made using partially hydrogenated oils, which is another way of saying trans fat. I won't belabor the details here, but suffice it to say that trans fats are very bad for you...bad enough that earlier this year California took the step of banning the use of trans fats to prepare food in restaurants. I'm happy to report, though, that there's a silver lining to this black cloud. I asked Andrew Itzkowitz if Shabtai Gourmet has plans to phase out the use of trans fats, and he confirmed that they're currently working with a company to develop a suitable Kosher-certified, trans fat free shortening to use in their products. Also, to be fair, it's worth noting that the amount of trans fat in Shabtai's products is low. The FDA guideline permits companies to label a product as having zero trans fat if the content is less than 0.5g per serving, and by that standard, Shabtai's foods pass the test. But those of us who are Celiac or otherwise gluten-free know that there's a decided difference between low something in our food, and no something in our food, and I can take a pretty hard line on these types of issues. 'Nuff said.
The Brownie Bites were average. They had good flavor, not great, and a tough, dry texture. For our money, we think you're better off going with our Brownie Recipe.
Ring Ting Cupcakes
The Ring Ting Cupcakes are Shabtai's version of the Hostess Ho Ho. Now, neither Kelli nor I were ever a big fan of Ho Hos in the first place, but we imagine that if you liked Ho Hos in your gluten days, you'd love Ring Tings now that you're gluten-free. Although just a touch on the dry and crumbly side, the texture of the cupcake was still very nice, and the flavor was very good.
The Rasberry Roll scored high marks with both me and Kelli. It's a little on the super-sweet side, but the flavor of the rasberry is great, and pairs very well with the coconut flakes on the outside. The yellow cake that comprises the rest of the roll is deliciously moist. This one is a winner.
In the end, of the four treats we tried, Shabtai Gourmet offered us a mixed bag - some good or great, some not as much. I'd be curious to try some of their other products, which have received good reviews from customers and other food reviewers. If Shabtai successfully removes the trans fats from its full line of products, I wouldn't hesitate to order a box (or several) of the Rainbow Cookies. I'd also wager that, if you value the convenience and ease of store-bought cakes and cookies, Shabtai Gourmet will be a winner in your kitchen. And just to sweeten the pot, Shabtai is currently offering free shipping on orders sent anywhere within the continental United States. So, if you don't find their products in your local store, they're making it pretty hard to say no to giving them a try.
UPDATE 7/15/09: Shabtai Gourmet has been working to remove trans fats, hydrogenated oils, and other "disagreeable" ingredients (see our criticism, above) from its line of baked goods. All of the products haven't made the transition...yet. But it's happening, and we're glad to hear it. Consider it the pot of gold at the end of a Shabtai Rainbow Cookie. =)
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Start with about 2 - 2.5 pounds of ground meat. I go for lean ground turkey, but use your favorite (or a blend of ground meats). This quantity will make a good-sized loaf that will feed a family for dinner (or provide ample leftovers, if you're a smaller group...like a couple). Season the ground meat starting with our meatball recipe ratios as a base, but with two minor modifications. 1) Roughly double the quantity of bread crumbs. And 2) Add cumin and paprika to spice the meatloaf up a bit more. Form the seasoned meat into a loaf and bake it in a 350-degree oven until done (you can use a thermometer to check the internal temperature of the meat, and/or cut into the loaf to check the interior). I like my meatloaf to brown on the outside, but stay moist on the inside. Lastly, enjoy!
Monday, September 22, 2008
Friday, September 19, 2008
We stayed at the Hilton Los Cabos, along The Corridor - the stretch of coast between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo. It was a beautiful property with wonderfully attentive service.
During our first day, we took a bus into San Jose del Cabo for lunch (above photo). San Jose is the quieter, more artsy sister to the parties and crowds of Cabo San Lucas. We strolled through art galleries, and stopped for lunch at a local place (I wish I could remember the name) that served the most delicious chicken fajitas, complete with onions, peppers, and 100% corn soft tortillas.
Before hopping on the bus to ride back to the hotel, we slipped into a bodega to see what snacks might be on-hand. I'm not normally a soda drinker - I try to avoid the overdose of high fructose corn syrup - but many years ago, I developed an addication to orange-flavored Fanta while in Latin American countries. Don't ask how the association developed. I can't explain it. Regardless, U.S.-based Fanta contains Modified Food Starch, which can be a hidden source of gluten. As such, I don't drink it. But the Mexican formulation is gloriously free of MFS. It's mostly sugar. I couldn't resist picking up a 3-liter bottle (more Fanta than any one person should reasonably drink!).
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
All the while, we thought it would be fun to try a simul-blog, overlapping the food interests of From Argentina With Love and NGNP. Well, here it is! And empanadas are the modus operandi. Rebecca's blog features an Empanada of the Month, a popular feature that always looks delicious. At their most basic, empanadas are a dough stuffed with different fillings. The dough is reminiscent of pastry dough, and is usually formed into a thin circle, which when folded over becomes a semi-circle. Fillings can range from savory to sweet.
When I asked Rebecca for a recommended empanada version to make, she suggested the Margherita Empanada, which is filled with mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, and tomatoes. "That sounds awfully Italian!" I wrote back. It turns out that Argentina has a very strong Italian heritage, and so one shouldn't be surprised to see such influences in the food. I learn something new every day it seems.
Empanada dough can be store-bought, already pre-cut into convenient discs, but of course those aren't gluten-free. The trick for us was to create a gluten-free empanada dough. We modified an empanada dough recipe from Gourmet magazine, which looked unbelieveably similar to Kelli's grandmother's recipe for pie crust. Gluten-free pie crust or pastry dough has been our toughest challenge to date - it's difficult to create, and even harder to work with (it's very fragile). This time was no different, but we were very happy with the results, which tasted great.
The most important judge of any food is the taste, however. And by that measure, our empanadas were a success! We're confident that, with a little practice, our repulgue technique will improve, we'll remember to save an egg for the egg wash, and our empanadas will only get better. But if our starting point is any judge, we're on the right track. In the meantime, if you're looking for empanada inspiration, or simply looking to journey further through the cuisine and culture of Argentina, I hope you'll take the time to peruse From Argentina With Love. And who knows...if you create your own successful GF empanada, just maybe it'll earn a spot as an Empanada of the Month!
Monday, September 8, 2008
- In a medium saucepan, saute garlic and onion in a little olive oil.
- Add the basil and oregano, saute a little more.
- Add the tomatoes, salt and pepper. Let flavors meld over medium heat.
- Blend the sauce using a hand-held immersion blender. Let simmer five to ten more minutes, adding salt and pepper to taste.
1 1/3 cups GF bread crumbs
1/3 cup chopped onion
1 lb. ground turkey
1 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried basil
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
- Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Mix thoroughly with your hands.
- Form into meatballs slightly larger than golf ball-sized. Makes about 16 meatballs.
- Heat olive oil in a saute pan on the stovetop, and brown the meatballs.
- Finish the meatballs by cooking on a sheet pan for 15 minutes in a 350-degree oven.
- Cook your favorite GF pasta.
- Add the marina sauce to the pasta in a pot. Mix well.
- Add the meatballs. Mix and serve.
- This is a recipe where you're meant to get your hands dirty! Take off your rings and other jewelry and dig in there with your hands to mix the ground meat and seasonings, and to form the meatballs.
- When it comes to gluten-free breadcrumbs, you don't have to be picky. Typically, we make our own breadcrumbs using whatever "bread" we happen to have in the house. In the past we've used leftover GF pancakes, stale slices of bread, arepas (a South American corn pancake), whatever. Take two or three slices of bread, pancakes, etc., and pulse them in the food processor to make quick, easy and inexpensive GF breadcrumbs!
- When you're preparing to brown the meatballs, make sure you pre-heat the olive oil. If you place a meatball into the saute pan and it doesn't begin to sizzle almost immediately, it means your oil isn't hot enough. Olive oil that's too cool won't cook and brown the meatballs, and instead will just be absorbed into the ground meat, resulting in a greasy meatball. (Don't overheat your olive oil, either. If the oil is smoking, turn down the heat!)
Friday, September 5, 2008
Brownies are one the easiest recipes to make gluten-free in a version that tastes just like the original - oh so tasty, moist, and chewy! And you can make them from scratch with basic ingredients!
For this recipe, Kelli and I have used a homemade gluten-free flour mix in the 4-3-2-1 ratio. 4 teaspoons Xantham gum. 3 cups Tapioca flour. 2 cups Rice flour. And 1 cup Sorghum flour. The ratio isn't quite right for other types of gluten-free baking, but for brownies it works great!
Here's the rest of what you need to know:Ingredients
1/2 cups + 2 tbsp butter
6 tbsp cocoa powder
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cups GF flour
- Grease an 8-inch square baking pan. Set aside.
- In a medium saucepan, melt butter over low heat and mix in cocoa powder. Remove from heat.
- Stir in eggs, sugar and vanilla. Using a wooden spoon, beat lightly until combined.
- Stir in flour.
- Spread batter in the baking pan.
- Bake in 350-degree oven for 30 minutes, or until your desired degree of "doneness."
- Let cool and cut into bars.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
When I went gluten-free, those cereals all became off limits. As corn- and rice-based cereals, you'd think they'd be gluten-free, but most cereal companies use barley malt extract in their recipes, thus adding gluten to a cereal that otherwise would be okay to eat. I heard that General Mills had recently modified their recipe to make their Rice Chex gluten-free. On a whim, last night Kelli and I strolled down the regular cereal aisle of our grocery store - something we only do these days if she has a craving for frosted mini wheats or another treat - to see if the new and improved Rice Chex had hit the shelves.
Sure enough, there it was - Rice Chex, with "gluten-free" labeled prominently on the front of the package. I read the ingredients to double-check, and sure enough, barley malt extract was conspicuously absent from the list. Hooray for General Mills! I immediately threw a box into our shopping cart, and gobbled down a bowl of Rice Chex as part of my breakfast this morning. Keep in mind, the remainder of the Chex line of cereals, including Corn Chex, are NOT gluten-free. They still contain barley malt extract. But you can now enjoy Rice Chex to your heart's content, and the company has even added a list of gluten-free recipes to its website.